Monday, January 31, 2011

Leave Government alone

This is more a note to President Obama and the folks he appointed to reorganize the federal government agencies. And my message is very simple, don't. I would urge you to tinker and make it more effective and efficient but any significant reorganization will only hamper their operation and work for years, and in the end, more likely not to prove to be better than before along with introducting new problems.

All you have to do is look the the reorganization to create the Homeland Security Administration. It hasn't make government more effective or efficient and only add more government management layers and bureacurcy, costing taxpayers money during the tranistion and for the current operation. It didn't make the agencies work better together. It didn't make them seemless for the flow of information. And while it did improve communications, that could have been done easier before the reorganization.

And all you have to do is look at the Mineral Managment Service, charged with overseeing the oil industry, including drlling, oil withdrawl, and production along with the collection of royalities. As we seen the consolidation only made the MMS employees friends with the industry, creating the BP disaster in the Gulf. And we know the MMS has long overlooked the collection of royalities for the public.

And you want to do more of this? Please don't. You can tinker all you want, but don't offer any major reorganization plan to Congress. It will be contentuous and take years, and for what, nothing. There is room to improve government agencies, but many of them work very well and the apparent contradiction and overlaps helps make better decisions and provided better management of our resources.

So, there's not much I can add to this beyond, just leave it alone. We don't want or need a reorganization if it's anything like the HSA and MMS. Just tinker to improve it to make it more efficient and effective. Don't waste taxpayers' money now and afterward.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Broken Government

When the members of Congress, most often the Republican members, bitch about the government, referring to the vast array of departments and agency comprising the adminisrative branch of our government, they like you to forget one thing. They are responsible for the organization, missions, goals and more importantly the funding of the government. These aren't at the discretion of the President but only at the discretion of Congress.

When President Obama made the joke about salmon, one agency in charge of salmon in salt water (actually at sea since esturaries are the jurisdiction of another agency) and another in fresh water, meaning in rivers. And a third is responsible for the processing of salmon into fresh fish and prepared foods. To everyone this sounds a mess, but it's not and very logical and reasonable, which the President failed to explain.

To diverge a bit. All ocean fish are the responsibility of the Department of Commerce, specifically the Marine Fisheries Service, along with the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adinistration. In short, everything ocean is commerce. All fresh water fish are the responbility of various bureaus in the Department of the Interior which is also responsible the lands, parks and wildlife refuges, historic monuments, and so on. The only exception is the US Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture because trees are a harvestable resource.

Now it sounds logical and reasonable. Nothing to make note about. It was to consolidate the various geographic entities of this country into respective departments. It still is effective and efficient, and not worth the joke. But that's not my point here, which is that Congress is responsible for this organization, and the whole organization of the government.

So, when they're lambasting the duplicity and redundancy of government, they created it and they can change it. They're only lambasting themselves. But that's not what they want you to know, only what they say for political points and your vote. It's simply political rhetoric and more so, bullshit.

It is the President who asks for and presents proposals for the organization of the federal government, as we saw when President Bush requested the now infamous Homeland Security Administration, consolidating various law enforcement departments, bureaus and agencies into one, and we all know how that's turned out (eg. TSA). But it was Congress who had to pass the bill for this new agency and consolidating the agencies into it, and then establish the annual appropriations.

So, that's my point, to Congress, if you don't like it, change it. You are the one in charge of it. Don't blame anyone else. Simply look in the mirror. You're your own enemy. How does that feel and look now?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Senate Democrats failed

The Democrats in the Senate this week, after recessing the first day of the Senate for the 112th Congress on January 5th to change the rules in the Senate and negotiate a compromise with the Republicans, failed. The were too coward to roll the dice when the Republicans called their bluff that any rules change would be continued against them if they lost the majority of the Senate in 2012.

So facing that possibility, they didn't even roll the dice but choose to collect their meager winnings with what the Republicans would give them. The minority again ruled the day and the minority again will rule the 112th Congress. Not the majority Democrats. The Democrats failed the people, the nation and their party. They were simply political cowards and in front of everybody.

So, Senate Democrats, give me a reason I should vote for you in 2012? Just one. Beyond the lame duck session which you did well except for the tax cuts, I'd like one reason any of you have the courage to stand up for the American people against the Republicans. And you're mad President Obama went around you to negotiate directly with the Republicans?

Why not, you're a waste of time, especially for him. You can't get anything done, or didn't for all but one month of the 111th Congress. You negotiated some of the best parts of the healthcare reform law away for votes to override a filibuster. You gave away Americans for their political agenda. And we're supposed to be happy about that?

During the whole of the 111th Congress you acted like you were the minority despite having 58 votes, a clear majority and 2 independents to get over filibusters. But you let hundreds of bills passed with bipartian support in the House die. For what? Because you wouldn't change the rules to get the bills into law, and now there isn't those laws.

So, what excactly doesn't the Democrats understand that Americans don't really care about the archane rules of the Senate and the inane loyalty and dedication to those rules? They want results. They didn't see them for almost two years and now they won't see results again for another nearly two years.

Do the Democrats really think the Republicans won't change the rules if they were in the majority? They haven't because the Democrats are also too afraid to use the filibuster and hold rules or face Republican wrath. The Democrats have failed to see the American people see them as political cowards. All the explanation doesn't change the results.

As Paul Simon sang, "Why deny the obvious...", which is what the Democrats did again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Creating your own failures

We've all seen this and some of us have experienced it, we self-destruct at worst or create the path for self-destruction at best. And when it comes to the federal government, it's about ourselves and about our enemies, or rather our friends who then use our self-destruction, which they helped happen, as reasons to fix if not eliminate us.

Confusing? Not really. It the idea of appointing corporate or industry people into senior appointments in the federal government and then they arrange for their agency, department, commission, of whatever to fail. This causes folks to blame the government for the failure and then argue for the government to get out of the work. Self-destruction at the hands of those who want it most and will gain from it the most.

We saw this with the BP drilling rig and oil spill disaster. The Bush-Cheney administration put in corporate and industry people into the top levels of the management of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) responsible for overseeing oil drilling and operations. The MMS was full of oil industry people hired by the Bush administration.

[Note.--The top 3-4 levels of any government agency are political appointees, approved by the Senate. The rest are normal government employees. This is why you have to discern when you speak of "govenment" you distinguish between the political from the permanent employees.]

We saw the degree of this in royality payment program where political appointed people put friends in the lower positions who then worked with the corporations to avoid payments, avoid oversight, and everything else losing the taxpayers billions in revenue while the employees accepted perks from the corporations.

The commission charged with the review of the disaster blamed the MMS and their lax oversight and inspections. So, it's easy to say government failed. Except it didn't fail, people in the MMS where were friends of the industry or former employees with the industry failed. It's was the creation of their own self-destruction to blame government.

And now the commission for the financial disaster of 2008 has found the same thing. While they argue the financial market got greedy and lax in the greed, they focus on the failures of the government to oversee the financial markets, which was full of corporate and industry insiders.

The same people who oversaw the financial market was either from the financial market or had in an interest in the market. The good point is that they blamed the overlapping government agencies, banks, commissions, etal for infighting and failing to see the obvious abuses. The system was designed to be ineffective and inefficient, the self-creation of a problem which lead to their self-destruction.

I won't argue I know much about it except what I read in the papers. I just find it interesting that in the end these investigation always find fault and the failure to be at the hands of the government, when the people in the government weren't really government employees but former corporate and industry employees in government. They created the situation which created the opportunity for failure.

And it worked. And then politicians can blame the government for the failure, all the while the employees have left to go back to their corporate or industry jobs to reap the profits from their own work in governement. While this has been the long standing problem with the Defense Department, it's worse in the financial market.

And it hasn't changed under President Obama. All of his senior advisors and cabinet member overseeing financial matters are from the financial corporate and industry world. It's easy to pretend they're the best to do the job because of their experience, but you're relying on them to work for the government and us than their former and future employer, the corporations.

It's why nothing really changes beyond cosmetic ones. It's the corporate-governement complex running the show and we're just the tag alongs anymore. And it's political party independent. All thanks to deregulation (gee, thanks Reagan) and shuffling employees between industry and government.

Any wonder why the financial market is seeing record profits and the banks sitting on over $1 Trillion is cash reserves, most of that from the government stimulus money? And what do you expect will be done from the commissions findings? And do you expect the politicians won't argue it's the government that's to blame for the financial bust?

In the end it will be a lot of noise about government. And the conservatives will have their voice to argue for deregulation while the liberals can't defend govenment without appearing to blame themselves for the problem. The foxes were in charge all along and the chickens never stood a chance until they were dinner, and the farmer argues to buy more chickens, forgetting to ask to help control the foxes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And the Truth Is

The Republicans and the Tea Party have released plans for the federal government budget. And many in both of those parties, considering them separate parts of the larger GOP, have made numerous statements about what they would like to do or should be done with the federal buget. But, as can be asked, what is the truth?

Well, if you crunch the numbers as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and numerous economists have done, you discover they can't and their plan won't, balance the budget. It won't reduce the budget deficit or the longterm national debt. And in fact they do quite the opposite, worsen the deficit and add tens of trillions to the debt.

Their plan is a sham to hide their true agenda which is very simple if you read behind politics. They want to gut the non-discretionary spending except for the Department of Defense (DOD) and Homeland Security Administration (HSA), exempting Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from cuts and increases, to nothing. For now they're saying 2006 spending for the next 10 years. That by 2020 would be a 40% reduction of the budget to those agencies.

They simply want to do away with all of the other government agencies, keeping the DOD and HSA along with the VA. That's their real goal and the real truth. All the other agencies would be dismantled and the costs reduced or transferred to the states. In addition they want to abolish Medicaid, and transfer all of it to the states under block grants. They want to convert Medicare to private insurance with voucher for financial assistance.

And most of all they want to privatize Social Security (SS). Their plan is to convert the savings of the young to market funds which will slowly drain the trust fund as the population ages and dies. In short bleed it to obliviion and death, where sometime in the second half of this century it disappears and everyone is paying for their own retirement plans through market funds.

As you can see that's a boon to Wall Street who will manage the funds for everyone, at a cost and profit to them of course, meaning you won't get your full share, just what's left after their costs, profits and bonuses. The current SS system has about a 5% overhead for the administration of the funds (no profit or bonuses) and all the accounts. Do you think Wall Street would or could do that?

In the end, both plans aren't budget balancing or debt reducing. Quite the opposite. And they want to cut all the basic services our government provides Americans leaving all of us on our own with whatever we can afford and the market will offer. And leave the rest to state and local governments. Like they can or will?

All of that for a DOD and HSA budget that always going up to "protect" America which is really to protect the rich, corporations and themselves who are paid by the rich and corporations The average worth of a member of Congress is in the low 7 figures (millions). Does that equate to the rest of us?

They further divide us by eliminating corporate taxes, only of which small to medium businesses pay anyway, all the big corporation pay no taxes, and reducing the upper income taxes to the minimum, and really zero but they're not saying that, only they'll provide all the tax deductions to get there. Their goal and plan is to make all of the rest of us pay the taxes for their government.

And their govenment is about the military, intelligence and surveillence, the last two against us, innocent citizens. They truly want a government which treats us as the enemy, just a tad above foreigners, all of whom they suspect of being terrorists. The corporate-military complex paid by us. And they live and work independently of us, above all the problems and issues they give us.

This sounds far-fetched, but in reality it's not far from the truth, and only if we let them. And we're on the road there. Look at the level of poverty in this country. The level of underfunded education programs. The level of 50 million American without health insurance. The level of tens of millions more with less than adequate health insurance. The level of pollution in many areas. The level of crime in many cities.

Think about it. We're the greatest nation on earth and we have the highest proportion of the biggest problems of all the industrial nations, some problems approaching underdeveloped and third-world levels. Every nation is passing us for their standard of living.

And what are we doing to get and do better? And where is our government leading, helping and supporting our efforts to get and do better? That takes money, our money, for us, and everyone and every business must pay their share for all of us to prosper. That's what America is about. It's not what they want. And that's the truth.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Separating Gun and Shooter

The NRA has made the foundation of their political strategy and tactics over guns that there is a separation of any guy and the shooter. They wrote about the Tuscon shooter, "The tragedy in Tucson was not about firearms, ammunition or magazine capacity," said Ted Novin, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry group. "It was about the actions of a madman. Period."

This is how they have dismissed all the mass shooting in the last two or more decades. It's all about the shooter, normal, law-abiding gun owner one moment and crazed madman the next. And all that separates those moments are the action of a gun owner using his weapon. That moment has no separation.

The gun owner knew the power of the gun and meant to do the most harm killing people he could. Our recent history is replete with mass shooting using semi-automatic or fully automatic weapons with high capacity magazines or with multiple magazines to reload quickly. The guns ranged from handguns to assault rifle, weapons designed for one purpose, kill people.

And the NRA cites the reason for high capacity magazines as, ""Law-abiding private citizens choose them for many reasons, including the same reason police officers do: to improve their odds in defensive situations.", except all of the mass shooting are not defensive sitiuations but offensive situations to kill the most number of people.

The NRA's argument in today's reality doesn't hold water. And Congress needs to step up and pass laws for the safety and security of all the American people and not protect the rights of the few million gun owners in this country. With 270 million guns for 308 million people, it's time to say enough.

No one will argue that a mass shooter is a normal person, but what the NRA in their argument misses is that the separation of the gun and the shooter doesn't work. Without a gun the "madman" doesn't have the weapon to kill people and inflict injuries. It's the gun that he used which does it. The gun and shooter are inspeparable.

And that what the NRA doesn't want you to see let alone known to realize we do have a problem in this country over guns. You can't separate the gun owner from their guns and you can't separate any shooter from the acts with a gun. And Congress needs to realize that the NRA's argument isn't right or true.

No gun kills people without someone loading it and using it. And no person kills people as they can without their gun. It's that simple. Both are necessary and both are present and used. The shooter uses the gun. Without it they're just a mad or angry person, easily defended against with any other type of weapon.

And all those people in the Tucson shooting would still be alive and well and there would have been no memorials for the fallen at the hands of a man with a gun. Without both, nothing happens. You can't dismiss either or separate them for the sake of argument. They're inseparable as obvious in the results.

And no amount of words from the NRA will separate them from their actions protecting gun owners to become shooters at mass shootings. The NRA is apart of their actions to allow this to happen. They can't separate themselves from their own gun owners, and they can't dismiss their actions from the results of mass shootings.

The gun and shooter aren't separable, and neither is the NRA and the shooter at a mass shooting. The gun ties them all together. And the NRA is standing in the middle of it, deaths, blood and all. Their actions allowed it to happen, over and over again. How many of this will it take to face the NRA with the reality of their actions all these years?

There are no excuses or reasons anymore to have laws protecting all Americans from gun onwers with weapons designed to kill people. We can have guns to protect our home, property and lives. We need laws protecting the rest of us when they take those guns into the public and use them against us. That's our right.

And that's where good gun laws and regulations are necessary, to protect all Americans from every gun owner, all of whom have the potential to act on their anger or hatred. We have the right to be safe and secure in public, from gun owners who have different ideas. And that can't be taken from us by the NRA.

So it's time Congress and the President did what is fair, right and good for the country, for America and especially all Americans. Now is the time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dear Democrats

I want to add my view of what I think you should focus on in the 112th Congress, and even if you don't have the majority in the House, I expect you to still push for it and make noise about, and more than ever, take the Republicans to task. You've already done that with the bill to repeal the healthcare reform law, but the Senate shouldn't be diplomatic about not bringing it up but make it clear it will never see the light of day.

That's not my point here. Here's some things to focus on.

First, focus on creating jobs here. Rebuild the nation's manufacturing centers in the midwest, the clothing centers in the southeast, technology centers everywhere, and so on. It's time to bebuild America and create jobs for Americans. If corporations don't want to do that, push them, embarrass them, even threaten them.

They don't want to create jobs here, so you have to encourage them, even provide incentives, but at no cost should you sacrifice workers' wages, benefits, rights and protections. And even support the right of unions and employees to have them. They are the power of this nation. They've made this nation. They deserve our respect, admiration and support.

Second, focus on protecting federal employees. You needlessly froze their salaries, and my annuity, for 2 years. We're losing money now as the cost of health insurance and living keeps increasing, but we can't keep pace without small increases in our salary and annuity.

So above all else, don't hurt them anymore. Don't ask for or agree to a longer freeze. Don't ask for or agree to cuts in staffing levels. Over the many decades since Ronald Reagan we've been asked and forced to do more with less. We've long been past the level we can't do more anymore. You can't keep pushing for more, there's no more more there to get.

Three, improve healthcare insurance. Get more coverage for women's healthcare and reproductive care. It's just the right thing to do.

Makes states create the risk pools. Some state governors have said they won't or delay it. Don't let them.

Create oversight for healthcare costs and insurance premiums. They are the primary reasons the cost keeps going up and the law doesn't address that. Some state regulate the latter but none regulate the former, at least outside of Medicare and Medicaid payments to providers. Do better.

Create the public option. There are two excellent models to frame a new plan on, Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefit plan, both government-private health insurance. This can easily be done for the public option and give the insurance companies competition to be fair to customers.

Fourth, push China into fair trade agreement for tariffs, markets, products, etc.

Fifth, rebuild America's infrastructure. You're doing this, now do more.

Sixth, cut the budgets of the Defense Department and Homeland Security Adminstration. Make the cut significant to help balance the budget deficit. No cosmetic cuts, real ones. Make them do what the rest of government is doing, more with less. We've done it, they can too.

Seventh, increase the budget for Veterans Affairs. It's the right thing to do for our veterans (yes, I served during the Vietnam-era).

Eighth, get us out of Afghanistan. It's a waste to stay longer, a waste of lives, resources, money and whatever else you can add. There's no reason to stay any longer. It won't get better and it's not winnable. Time to bring everyone and everything home.

That's it for now. I'll add or revise suggestions as I think of them from the news, from your words and actions, and from my anger with you up until the lame duck sesson.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Everything is on the Table

Don't you love those words? Everything is on the table for budget cuts. Except of course, entitlements, military spending, homeland security and tax cuts. Well, ok entitlements can be on the table because they don't really effect rich people enough for them to sneeze at the loss of income. And that include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

It doesn't matter that Social Security is self-supporting and is very solvent to 2035 and would be to 2075 if Congress would stop stealing from the trust fund. And we know Congress is always looking at ways to cut benefits to the elderly and payments to doctors, clinics and hospitals for Medicare. And Medicaid, well, just push the costs to the states who can't afford it except to cut benefits and people.

Well, if Congress is really serious, which we know they're not, only cosmetically for political gains, they would put the budgets of the Department of Defense for all expenditures including the two wars, the weapons systems and other capital expenditures, and operations, and the Homeland Security Administration on the table. But we know they won't.

And we know the 2010 Bush, now Obama, tax cuts won't be allowed to expire in 2012. Obama was too chicken to take the Republicans on about this and negotiated a "compromise" which was essentially give them everything they wanted. The Republicans could care less about the middle class tax cuts. They only wanted them for the rich, and they can blame the President and the Democrats for increase the budget deficit over those but not their tax cuts.

That's because they want our government to really be just two things, the military and homeland security. They really want our government to be oppressive here and abroad. To suspect every citizen of being a dosmetic terrorist and every else of being an extremist or terrorist, especially if you're of Arab decent or ethnicity or a follower of Islam. Only rich, white, christian citizens are "good" people.

Ok, an exageration, but not by much if you listen to their words. But that's not the point here. It's that if we want to have a realistic balanced budget to cut the annual deficit and national debt, it must include significant cuts in the military and homeland security. They must also do more with less than their current, and always have been, practice of doing more with more money.

We don't need total miltiary superiority over all the nations of the world. We don't need to be the world's police force for bad or terrorist nations. The Washington Post in a series of article have shown the intelligence community is 2 to 3 times too big for it's optimum efficiency and effectiveness. It's needs to shrink by half, at least, and keep spending down below half of current levels.

There's more waste and fraud in those two agencies than the rest of the government combined, and that's where there is the most to save now and longterm. We need to address Medicare and Medicaid, but we can use the savings from those two programs to offset these two. We do need to address the longterm cost of healthcare. It's twice the per person average of European countries and it's no better than theirs.

This is in part because we allow the healthcare and health insurance industries to control costs for profit. It's time we decided to regulate them and bring costs, with some profit, in line with the costs of everything else and the living expenses of the people. We need to have a truly affordable healthcare system in this country, from the premiums to the cost of care for everyone.

But that's a different subject. My point here is that everything should be on the table for real, not just for appearances to remove later or not cut, or worse increase. And that includes the military and homeland security. We need what we can afford and not rob from the rest of the programs we need which provide more benefits to the people and for this nation.

When we say we want everything on the table, we mean it and we expect Congress to act accordingly. No bullshit and real cuts.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Do You Really

Let me ask you, do you really dislike the new healthcare reform law that you're willing to go back to what was before this law was enacted? Do you really want the Republicans to hand your rights to determine and protect your healthcare and health insurance back to the insurance companies?

That's what will happen if you let them argue to pass the repeal of the healthcare law. And as much as you think it's just a symbolic vote as the Senate won't even consider the bill and the President will certainly veto it, and as much as it could be overridden in the House it wouldn't be overridden in the Senate.

As much as you don't like this law, and there are parts I find missing or inadequate, I'll take it over what existing before. I would like to see Congress work to improve and add to this law to help all Americans with their health insurance. This isn't socialized medicine. This isn't free universal healthcare. This isn't a government run health program. It won't take away your health insurance.

It's none of that as the Republicans try to portray the law. It isn't a "job-killing" law, it has added jobs and will continue to add jobs as more people get health insurance and better healthcare. It doesn't add to the deficit as repealing it would ($230 Billion according to the CBO). It's a good law which can and should only get better.

The Republicans only want you to believe it's bad so they can return health insurance to the companies. They want companies to deny health insurance to the 30 million who didn't have any, and used emergency rooms and public health clinics at taxpayers expense. They want to deny better insurance to the 20 million underinsured.

They want to return power to the companies to cancel policies without cause, change coverage monthly, deny claims when covered, and so on to keep the money, your money, for themselves. Their profits, which has decreased because of this law. The health insurance companies are still making money, partly because they're adding new customers because of this law. It's good business for them.

In the end, it's that simple. The Republicans don't have a replacement plan except business as was and business as usual. To take away all this law does for you now and for the rest of your life. So, let me ask you, is repealing it what you really want?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How Many

How many memorials after mass shootings do we as a nation and people have to have before we not just learn but change from our learning? How many innocent people have to die at the hands of anger and hate-filled people with guns? So easily found and purchased, and then used with such intentional reckless abandon.

We can talk all we want about answers and more so about solutions, but it still gets to the complexity of our society, nation and people. As the President said, it's time to talk and work together to see these events happen less often. It's time to show we're a better nation. It's time to really put all Americans in our vision and view.

Or else, without change, how soon will we be doing this again? And will we do the same things and give the same words? And look back to find we didn't learn and we didn't change. Is this the future we want for our children, and future generations?

How many?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Old Adage

Remember the old adage? You know the one that goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."? Well, consider what wouldn't have happened had all those people who saw in the Tuscon shooter a very troubled young man intervened to help him, direct him to help or informed professionals to act to help him. Had he had some that help, it's likely all that happened in Tucson Saturday would not have happened.

We keep cutting funds and services for the mentally ill, from those who are just mildy troubled or depressed to those who are seriously mentally ill. We saw this with the Virginia Tech shooting, the worst in recent history. And nothing was done to help that young man. We saw this with the Tucson shooter and nothing was done. And now 6 people are dead, another 14 injured, some critically, including Congressional Representative Giffords.

All the rants to save mental health money will now cost us in both lives and resources, and end up putting one young man in prision for life, if not the death penalty. And at what price? Was it worth all the savings for not helping him when we had the chance? All the hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent when a few thousand would have probably prevented this act. Maybe not another act but at least this one.

We're at a crossroads with our nation and society, especially with the proliferation of guns - now at 270 million guns for 308 million people, meaning on average one gun for 90% of the population of this country. We need to serious address and resolve two issues. First, fund mental healthcare for all needed people. Second, deal the the sheer number of guns and the easy purchasing, carrying and use of them in public.

These are the two keys issues with the Tucson shooting. A troubled, angry young man and Arizona's very relaxed gun laws (almost the worst in the country). The shooter, while acting alone, lived and reacted to the world around him. Our world too. He saw it differently than we have and he acted differently than we would. It's that simple. And it's simple we could have prevented this, but we didn't.

We keep dismissing these horrific acts as isolated or incidental and then we keep reacting in horror when they happen. Dozens of mass shooting in the last two decades. Dozens of non-gun violent acts against the government or others. And yet we keep ignoring the obviousness of them and the consistency with which they happen.

We can't keep doing this if we are to become a better nation. We need to address the two issues, mental health services and guns. And when we do, we'll realize the old adage, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. And we'll save a lot of lives and grieving friends and families.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wikileaks isn't the problem

As much as government officials want to say and as much as it may appear obvious, Wikileaks isn't the problem when they posted the hundreds of thousands of document on their Website. Few if any of those documents were classified beyond "for internal use only", and most weren't even that. The problem is the content of those documents.

As much as some want to prosecute Wikileaks and the associated people, the real criminal act we done by the private who stole them but more so by the people who wrote them. It's fair to say they were simply communications which included information they would have said in a face-to-face conversation. So, if those conversations were leaked, would there be the same outrage?

The point here is that the government needs to secure information better where people like the private can't steal it. We really know this is impossible all the time, so why did all those people say the things they did they wouldn't say in public or more so in face-to-face conversations?

If the reputation of the State Department was damage, it was self-inflicted because of the personal judgement of some of them was detrimental to our interests. Putting it in writing only proved the point of their failure to use good judgement in communications. They should be reprimanded, not protected under the guise of prosecuting Wikileaks.

As for the military documents, as noted, many were innoucuous communications of ordinary life and times. That's something the public should know about our military and the on-going war in Afghanistan and places elsewhere. The truth is a powerful thing and something the military shouldn't be hiding from us taxpayers who are footing the bills there.

In the end, the investigation and probably prosecution of Wikileaks is groundless for achieving more than a political point of being tough of people who expose the truth. Daniel Ellsberg and the newspapers and book publishers who published the Pentagon Papers, which were classified, weren't prosecuted.

It's the old adage people are forgetting here. You don't shoot the messenger because you don't like the message. Wikileaks exposed the truth without naming or exposing names. They didn't to anything those people did then over the Pentagon Papers. Only now some people and politician want to make it a war crime when it's not. It wasn't then and it's not now.

The war on terrorism isn't on-going. We achieved our goals in Afghanistan and are hanging around for reasons which were agreed in the beginning and make little sense nown. Our State Department appears to have a nonchalant and cavalier attitude toward people in other nations. To that it can be said, "Wise up."

Whatever damage was done can be fixed. Things will be different but then maybe it's time it was different. And, just maybe, thanks to Wikileaks doing what should have been done all along?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

We're not the enemy

To whom it may concern, which means any politician and more so those in Congress and especially the President. Federal government active and retired employees are not your enemy. We are not the enemy, of the people, of the economy or the failues of everyone else to use as a political scapegoat. We were not involved in the buildup to the recession or the cause of it.

And we should not be seen as the enemy to take your frustration and poltical anger out on. We're just like every ordinary citizen working in the private sector. We work hard. We're paid decently but still about 20% less than the private sector. We have an average benefits package (retirement annuity and health insurance - in the middle of the top 100 corporations). And we have nearly the same job security (it takes just 3-6 months to terminate an employee).

But we keep getting described as the enemy of or for nearly everything, and especially more pay, annuity, insurance, etc. than we really have. The federal employees trust fund is quite independently solvent, the retirees don't add to anything and all retirees are paid out of this fund and not from other sources. Yet while my health insurance premiums went up just under 20% in the last two years, my annuity has only gone up less than 2%.

That's because our annuity is contolled by Congress and our health insurance by the companies and the Office of Management and Budget (more the former than the latter). In short we took an equal hit as everyone else. And now President Obama has chosen to freeze the salaries of active employees and the annuity of retired employees because it's what Republicans would do, and he becoming one, acted accordingly.

And while Obama promised to make federal employment "cool" again during his early days in office, he has now decided to treat us as the enemy. So, outside of a few in Congress, we have no friends. The Republicans have done a great job to present us as the enemy of the free market, enemy of prosperity and enemy of democracy, and chose to crave out of pay and benefits, crave out our protections, and more so, crave out our numbers.

And the President has obliged them because it's good politics leading up to the 2012 election campaign. We have become his enemy too. And so Mr. President, exactly how do you expect govenment to run without us and how do you expect we'll feel supported by a president who not only thinks we're the enemy, but publically says we're the enemy.

Gee, that gives employees and retirees who worked their careers in federal service, a warm and fuzzy feeling. And you expect to believe you're our president when you'll offer a modest pay raise for 2012 to get our vote while it was frozen for two years in the face of increasing living expenses? You expect we'll forget your words and actions we're the enemy?

We'll let you know in the voting booth, just like every citizen. It's our right and our voice, and who we consider our enemy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's Reality That Matters

I was listening to the news stories about the latest economic and job numbers and then all the criticism about how it wasn't enough and everyone "expected" more jobs and better growth. Like the world follows what these people expect? It was a real WTF moment because I doubt the 103,000 people who are now working, and weren't just two months ago, really care about expectations except their own.

I hear this idea all the time about Wall Street, the Stock Market, corporate quarterly and annual financial reports, and production and services. It's all bullshit, because what matter is what happens, not what people expected to happen. And more so because everyone expects positive number, growth for the sake of growth, more revenue, higher profits and more investor share value and dividends.

Why? I'm not against expectations. We all have them in our life and work, it's the measure of what we want to do. But it's unrealistic for "experts" to decide what a company, a corporation, the government, and the larger economy should do when it's what it actually does that's important. We all know the jobs numbers weren't great but hey, ask those 103,000 people with jobs, they'll say it is better and maybe even great that they can now look at their expectations better.

We have to face the fact expectations don't change reality. We change reality. It's what we do with what we have where we're at that matters. Nothing else. Everyone else can say they want to see this or that goal met, but that's not what matter, nor is it based on realty, only their overly positive view of things.

And when the goals weren't met, decide those other folks responsible for the actual work failed. They didn't fail. They tried hard, worked hard and met the goals reality gave them. You can't do more when the reality isn't there. And that's the expectations everything needs to be evaluated on and not the wishful thinking and hopes of others.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Give it Time

Folks, as much as you may hate the Healthcare Reform Act, and there is much I don't like about it and find lacking, let's agree to do one thing, give it time. It was only passed less than a year ago and while some provisions kicked in last fall and more will do so this year, it is a progressive implementation that's key here and we should allow it to run its course.

I won't argue I would like to see improvements, like more healthcare for women, including reproductive health information and service, and yes including abortion, like end-of-line counseling for those facing terminal illnesses or diseases, like improved oversight on cost increases in premiums, healthcare in hospitals and clinics, and like really more oversight and control on the health insurance companies.

I don't want it repealed by any means. The key that Republicans fail to tell those who advocate its repeal, is what will they replace it with? They don't offer anything other than the past which caused the crisis and problems in the first place. Do you really want to go back to where your insurance or coverage can be rejected, denied or cancelled without cause or reason just because you need it?

Is that what you want? The past? Think about it. As much as you don't like about this reform, it's far better than the past. It needs more and more improvements, and I expect the President and Democrats to do that, even making it clear they're on your side and the Republicans aren't on yours but side of the insurance companies. That's the Republicans' real plan, go back to the private market which screwed you every way but right.

If you don't believe or buy the Republicans aren't for you, look at all the organizations giving them money and all the organization running the ads, Websites and other ventures into the "private market healthcare plan", and you'll see all of it is funded and run by the healthcare industry and health insurance companies. There's no consumer-backed organization supporting repealing the Act.

So, let's put a moratium on any healthcare legistlation for the next two years. Let's give it time when we can assess what needs to be changed, added or removed in 2013 for those provisions in place and not any provision yet to be implemented. That's it, just work on that, and I'll work on voicing my view for more healthcare reform.

In the end, let's tell the Republicans, "Hell No, we don't want any healthcare repeal or reform in this congressional session."

Job Killing Republicans

I'm going to give the Republicans their own words, not just because I'm angry at their blind stupidity to use "job-killing" to describe anything Democratic or Presidential, even in spite of the truth, and not because almost all of the ideas the Democrats have proposed in the recent past were at one time if not originally Republican ideas and sold as "job-creating", but because it's simply a useless term for short-term political gain.

The Republicans decided shortly after Obama was inaugurated to say no to anything Democratic and especially anything proposed by him even if they not only like the idea but have in the past proposed and pushed the idea. It's known they are the part of "No" on everything, including their own. But now they're into catch-phrases of the day and this is one which has no basis in truth or reality and just shows how far they will go to be stupid.

It doesn't bother them that 4.4 million jobs were lost under President Bush's 8 years in office and we were bleeding jobs when Obama came into office. Anything Republican then was good for the economy, every other countries' economy except ours if you exclude Wall Street who got super rich on the poor and middle class Americans with bad mortage marketing, high interest rates on everything, and providing less than decent wages and benefits.

Now everything is "job-killing" for no reason than just adding it to the idea. But what I haven't heard from the Republicans is what do they have that will create good American jobs, like here in America. It was noted that business created 1. 4 million jobs in 2009, overseas, not in this country. While they talk about jobs, those jobs aren't for us, but cheap foreign labor where they don't pay benefits.

And now they're targetting government employees with pay freezes, benefit cuts and even layoff and terminations. The more with less idea that never works. It's all designed for political reasons to get more money to the wealthy and more so the corporations. They can't create jobs here, they never have in the last two decades. They don't want to see that jobs creates wealth which helps the economy through spending.

So, to the Republicans I want to ask you now that you have the House, to offer job-creating bills that will create good jobs here for the whole range of Americans, not just those you think are worthy, but everyone. That's American and America. Or are you too chicken to help us?

Or maybe I should start using "Republican-killing" to describe what are the alternatives? Gee, Sharon Angle called it "Second Amendment remedies" when describing what alternatives people should use with the Democrats when they didn't like the results.

Or maybe I should use "America-killing" to describe your ideas because that's what you're doing, bleeding America and Americans for the wealthy and corporations. Maybe if you got outside your rich whites-only world you'd see you're in a very small minority where no one likes men who whine and cry, especially in public.

Or mabybe I should use "job-killing" to all the Republican ideas. Hey, I like that. Thanks for the slogan. From now on anything the Republicans propose will be met with "job-killing" before I say anything else. No thinking required, just it's "job-killing" this or that, whatever it is, just "job-killing" because it will be true when applied to you.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Open Letter to Mr. Boehner

Mr. Boehner,

Before you go down the political rhetoric and work road you espouse, remember we didn't vote for the Republicans but voted against the President and the Democrats. Get that through your thick skull and do the job Americans want and not what you think we want, which is just more of the same Republican partisan work and failures we saw under President Bush.

Let's remember, the Republicans caused the financial collapse and the exporting of American jobs to make corporations richer. We don't want or need that again, so understand if you go down the road we will remind you in 2012 as we reminded the Democrats in 2010. We need and want jobs. We need and want good and affordable healthcare, not the repeal of the law but more of the same but with the public option, cost controls, and such thing to make it better and affordable.

We want better government, not less because it's already known and proven, you can't do more with less and government can't be treated like or in the pocket of the corporations. It's our government, not yours. We want taxes on the wealthy and we want corporations to actually pay taxes, something many don't do anymore. We want the poor and elderly to get financial help to more than survive but prosper.

We want you to actually negotiate and cooperate with the Democrats and the President, not hold us hotage. We don't want political rhetoric to explain your actions, we want honesty and truth. We know the difference and we know political bullshit when we hear it, especially from you. We don't want two-faced lies, promising one thing while working behind the scenes to undo what you said or work against it.

We don't want to see bills passed which you and we know won't pass the Senate. We're not stupid or ignorant of politics. We know that you'll pass bills to show you're doing the Repubicans' work but is clearly a dead one outside the House. Pass bills which we work and help Americans in bipartisanship with the Democrats and the President.

We don't want superficial transparency. We want real transparency, but really want to good results for the American people, all of us from the poorest to the decling middle class. The rich are fine, as you already know with your wealth. We know you don't care about us except for our vote. We're tired of that and expect results for us.

I could go on with a litany of ideas and suggestions, but I know you're not listening and won't listen, except of course to the lobbyists and big donors who pay you to vote their way. But make no mistake, you were elected by the people, by Americans, and failure to work for them will, with the rest of the Republicans, face reality in 2012.

As we voted against the Democrats in 2012, we can vote you out of office as we did in 2006 and 2008. And so remember if you don't create jobs, help average Americans and make this country better, we'll be there in the voting booth. And for God's sake, man up and stop the damn crying.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Denying Reality

I was listening to and reading the news stories about the Republicans taking control of the House this next Congressional session. I've read their "Contract for America" and all the ideas and rules they plan. Oh, what ambitions they have for their time in power. Like New Year's resolution, it will be short-lived and politics as usual will resume as the normal order of business.

All the rules about ownership of actions by representatives, which I assume is aimed at the Democrats and not their own party, will become invisible as transparency will be selectively enforced. They don't want transparency, except of course if they already have back rooms ways to avoid it, which, like the White House and the administrations, previous and current, have had for decades.

But that's not my point here. It's their arrogance. Totally blind arrogance where they overtly and mistakenly equate arrogance with patriotism. And more so, their brand of patriotism, meaning corporate-backed and corporation-friendly laws to get what they want more than power, money. It's all about money to them.

They equate patriotism with money. Capitalism and those who practice it, corporations, except those corporations are now global enterprises and could care less about America, but only what they also want, which is the same as the Republicans, money, and even more money, even money paid by taxpayers directed to them in tax cuts and exemptions, contracts, grants, etc. Just money.

And in the pursuit of money, equating the work as Patriotic, the Republicans cite all sorts of ideas and ideals, religions as politics, and greed as virtue, and everything else, meaning the ordinary people not only don't count but aren't really in their world of patriots, except of course those who serve their wars.

They've learned what General Patton said about our enemy, "You don't die for your country, you make the other son-of-a-bitch die for his.", except ordinary folks are the enemy and they're more than happy to send young men and women into a trumped up war for global geopolitics and really oil as democracy and patriotism.

And that's part of their denial. Out of arrogance they only see their America, that top 5% of the wealthy who want tax breaks to get richer and buy more extravagence. And the corporations who worry about attaining more money. To that end, the corporations don't care where the jobs are created, especially if those jobs are here and more so union, which will cost them more in pay and benefits.

It's the bottom line for the wealthy, the value of their portfolio and their assests, and for the corporation, profit and shareholder value. Everything else is irrelevant or unimportant. And that's the reality the Republicans believe and promote as ordinary and patriotic. It is, however, part of our heritage from colonial times. The rich wanted to get richer and companies wanted more revenue.

But even then those folks understood about the rest of what made America great, people and especially the ordinary folks who worked for their living and often their survival. Today the Republicans are blind to the rest of us. You hear it in their words, see it in their lifestyle, and discover it in the laws they propose and those they pass. Some money to us, just enough to make us think we're important, but more money, and most of it, to corporations and the wealthy.

That's their reality. Everything else isn't in their world, not in their view, their thoughts or their actions. We simply don't count except to pay taxes.